• By The Financial District


The US Army has hidden or downplayed the extent to which its firearms disappear, significantly understating losses and thefts even as some weapons are used in street crimes, Kristin M. Hall, Kames Laporta and Justin Pritchard wrote in a special report for the Associated Press (AP).

The Army’s pattern of secrecy and suppression dates back nearly a decade when AP began investigating weapons accountability within the military. Officials fought the release of information for years, then offered misleading answers that contradict internal records.

Military guns aren’t just disappearing. Stolen guns have been used in shootings, brandished to rob and threaten people, and recovered in the hands of felons. Thieves sold assault rifles to a street gang.

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Army officials cited information that suggests only a couple of hundred firearms vanished during the 2010s. Internal Army memos that AP obtained show losses many times higher.

It wasn’t until 2019 that the Army released a small batch of data. The records from the registry showed 288 firearms over six years.

The data was not even accurate compared to Army criminal investigation records. Using the unique serial numbers assigned to every weapon, AP identified 19 missing firearms that were not in the registry data. This included a M240B machine gun that an Army National Guard unit reported missing in Wyoming in 2014.

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In 2019 and 2020, the Army distributed memos describing military weapons loss as having “the highest importance.” The numbers of missing “arms and arms components remain the same or increased” over the seven years covered by the memos, called ALARACTs, and the documents cited theft and “neglect” as the most common factors.

The memos counted 1,303 missing rifles and handguns from 2013-2019. During the same seven years, the investigative records the Army said were authoritative showed 62 lost or stolen rifles or handguns.


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